Ministers showcase sustained efforts to improve foundational learning outcomes in Africa; commend ADEA and HCA for articulating a foundational learning resource guidebook

On Tuesday, June 25, Ministers in charge of foundational learning came together for the second time this year to share their progress towards their commitments to improve foundational learning in their countries in the Year of Education (YoE). The session was the fifth meeting of the Africa Foundational Learning Ministerial Coalition, organized by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and Human Capital Africa (HCA). The session was moderated by ADEA’s Executive Secretary, Albert Nsengiyumva, and the Founder of HCA, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili.

In his remarks to set the stage, Albert acknowledged that the meeting provided an opportunity for countries and stakeholders to share strides they have made since the last coalition meeting in February. He reiterated the value of the Coalition as a knowledge-sharing platform for peer learning and tracking progress in foundational learning among members. 

“ This is again another important opportunity for countries and stakeholders to look into changes that have made since then (February) and any opportunities to learn from each other.”

In her opening discourse, Dr. Ezekwesili, noted that the meeting came at an important point to reflect on the actions of the coalition during the YoE, to enable planning for the future. She explained that this halfway mark in the YoE provides an important opportunity to introspect and retrospect on progress made, so we can plan. 

“ The fact that we are now in the half year of the year of education, means that it is important to be introspective and retrospective so that we can plan for the future.”

The opening remarks were followed by a presentation by ADEA, on behalf of partners, which provided a brief synopsis on the foundational learning starter pack. The development of this pack is one of the five commitments highlighted in the Ministerial communique from the ADEA’s high-level dialogue forum held in Lusaka in November 2023. The pack is a resource guide developed by ADEA, HCA, and partners to help provide a solid context for African foundational learning.

In addition to sharing their perspectives on the foundational learning starter pack, Ministers of Education from Angola and Cote d’Ivoire and ministerial representatives from Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe sharedcountry updates on efforts to enhance foundational learning in their respective countries. 

It was encouraging to note the different evidence-based interventions countries are implementing to improve foundational learning. For example, the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach in introduce in Angola, is now being scaled up and an adaptation of the Catch-Up program in Zambia. The finalization of the national early learning program and development of textbooks in Cote d’Ivoire were other efforts shared with partners at the meeting. 

In Uganda, the Ministry of Education approved the Early Childhood Care and Education, while Kenya highlighted its competency-based curriculum and teacher performance appraisal system. South Africa emphasized the importance of laying a strong foundation for children through its early childhood education program. Zimbabwe and the Gambia conveyed their countries’ commitments to improving foundational learning by focusing on early childhood education and literacy. Mauritius highlighted strategic interventions such as in-time remedial action, primary school readiness assessments, and the creation of a social and emotional learning program. 

The country presentations were followed by a presentation by the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report (UNESCO-GEM-R) team, who shared findings from the 2024 Spotlight Report on Foundational Learning in Africa. 

In his remarks, Dr Benjamin Piper, the Director of Global Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, represented by Senior Program Officer, Policy and Advocacy, Victoria Egbetayo, congratulated the team for developing the foundational learning starter pack. They acknowledged the importance and value of the coalition and congratulated the President of Zambia for accepting to be the Champion of Foundational Learning. The Foundation emphasized the importance of prioritizing foundational learning and reminded countries of the high costs associated with poor foundational learning. The Foundation also cited the need for a continental tracker on foundational learning. 

The meeting ended on a positive and motivating note, with special thanks from ADEA and HCA to all the members for attending the meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for September 2024.